Sunday, March 13, 2011

How I wasted my Spring Break

In the mid 1980s XC ski legend Audun Endestadt claimed that it would be possible to ski the 30 miles and 14,000 vertical feet to the summit of 16,000 foot Mt Sanford in under 24 hours.

This was about the same time that Chuck Comstock schemed to win the Wilderness Classic using his kite to fly off the Stairway Icefall, Jon Underwood suggested we mtn bike a wilderness route in the White Mountains, and Carl Tobin said the Iditabike ought to be extended to McGrath.

Those were heady days and we dreamed up many possibilities that only now are realized by a new generation of adventurers.

For example, Luc Mehl and John Sykes have shown that summiting Mt Sanford in a day is possible, although I think they were simply training for the upcoming Winter Wilderness Classic. Their round trip to 15,000 feet was three days, and they weren't really racing as they had time to make a video and sleep on the way up.

While Luc and John were setting out to ski Mt. Sanford rt from the road in under 72 hours, I was reliving my past (about all I can do, anymore it seems) and contributing to the cloud's collective knowledge base by posting photos for Google Earth where there are none.

Friday, March 11, 2011

My Problem with Vinyl

John Harpole skiing/walking/rafting out from Kitchatna Spires, 1985.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Class II in Cheap, Vinyl Packrafts

There's a discussion over on the website about what's available as a cheap boat for Class II packrafting.

The old, apparently discontinued Sevylor Trailboat was always too small and fragile. The other vinyl boats that could be bought for under $50 worked better, but were very fragile and needed tender care. But the fist hiking traverse of the Alaska Range (Tok to Lake Clark) in 1996 by Kevin Armstrong, Doug Woody and others was made with vinyl rafts. They floated the Nenana and the Stony Rivers among others with expedition-ish loads, too.

Many people completed Wilderness Classics in vinyl rafts including Dick Grifith in 1982, and others throughout the 80's and 90's.

Back in the 90's when only vinyl rafts and the wee Curtis Design boats and used Sherpa Rafts were all that was available, Barney Griffith (he made the first kayak descent of Devils Canyon of the Susitna, Talkeetna Canyon, and Canyon Creek in the 70's) often packrafted with his dad Dick in the Wilderness Classic. Barney told me that a good paddle was more important than the boat. When pressed for what he meant by "good", he said stiff so that you had control and could keep the vinyl boat or fragile little Curtis Design off sticks and rocks and out of holes.

Below is a video from Australia of people running Class II and III in inexpensive vinyl rafts. By the way, "lilo" is Aussie for air mattress.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Yarlung Tsangpo Link

My spare time, between lectures, paper-grading, and admin has been researching the region at the corner of Tibet, China, India, and Burma. This place looks quite amazing on Google Earth, particularly as the Tibet/China side has really good resolution and there are 1:200,000 scale maps available from the Russians. Plus, the Chinese tourists who travel through the Tibetan side seem much more savvy and willing and eager to post their photos on Google Earth, so you can get an idea of what it looks like. Spruce, hemlock, juniper, and birch in the lowlands and of course, my interest, are the supposed ice worms of the glaciers. Unfortunately the tourists have not yet posted a photo of a Tibetan ice worm.

Recently I stumbled on a video of an Outside Magazine movie here that's an incredible modern kayak expedition, even if 10 years old now. An international crew on 10,000 cfs Grand Canyon flows with a NZ West Coast gradient -- there's even a 70-100 foot waterfall that splits the river into an upper and lower gorge. These gnar gnar runners voices document their real respect for the Himlayan scale big water.

Worth watching all 45 minutes or so on-line. It's the movie of the trip that Peter Heller wrote about in Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet's Tsangpo River.

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